Malawi Traditional Leaders Accuse Spearhead Holdings Limited of Illegally Acquiring Land in Bwanje Valley

Malawi Traditional Leaders Accuse Spearhead Holdings Limited of Illegally Acquiring Land in Bwanje Valley

In a recent development, traditional leaders from Ntcheu district in Malawi have raised concerns over the alleged illegal ownership of 8,904 hectares of land in the Bwanje Valley by Spearhead Holdings Limited. Inkosi Masasa, one of the prominent traditional leaders, questioned how the privately-owned company, managed by Graham Carr, obtained such a vast area of customary land without proper authorization from the chiefs.

Under normal circumstances, the acquisition of a title deed for customary land requires an authorization letter from the chiefs, as stated by Inkosi Masasa. He further highlighted that in 2014, officials from Spearhead Holdings Limited arrived in the area claiming ownership of the land based on a 1983 lease to Spearhead Enterprises, a company associated with the defunct Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP). However, traditional leader Masasa dismissed this claim, asserting that MYP never operated or had a presence in the area.

Group Village Headmen Yesaya and Elisa also voiced their concerns, stating that Spearhead Holdings Limited failed to produce an authorization letter from the chiefs during a court hearing in 2018. The then District Commissioner of Ntcheu, Smart Gwedemula, was present at the hearing. Group Village Headman Yesaya added that the company later changed their justification, claiming ownership of the land due to a debt owed by former Head of State Hastings Kamuzu Banda to certain commercial banks in the country.

Former Malawi Young Pioneer serviceman, Ringsta Mpoma Moyo, who was involved in administrative work for Spearhead Enterprises, supported the claims of the traditional leaders. He questioned how the company could assert ownership of the land when he had recently completed the leasing process for a portion of the claimed land, a process that began in 2017.

Graham Carr's official, Ackno Mbewe, refuted the chiefs' allegations, maintaining that Spearhead Holdings Limited legally owned the Bwanje Estate through the 1983 lease to Spearhead Enterprises. Mbewe disclosed that the government holds a 45 percent stake in Spearhead Holdings Limited, and the Bwanje Estate is intended for the proposed Mega Farms.

Further investigations and documents reveal that before acquiring part of the Bwanje Estate land, Crown Plantations, another entity involved in the dispute, issued a public notice inviting any dissatisfied party to dispute their acquisition. However, the High Court in Blantyre ruled in favor of Spearhead Holdings Limited on January 21, 2023, after the company complained of land encroachment by Motor Engil and Crown Plantations.

Crown Plantations has since filed an appeal against the ruling, claiming that they legally acquired the land and that Spearhead Holdings Limited, currently under receivership, is not eligible to sue. In response, Spearhead Holdings Limited has applied to the High Court for the assessment of damages amounting to over 2 billion Kwacha from Crown Plantations and 68 million Kwacha from Motor Engil.

This dispute over land ownership involving Spearhead Holdings Limited and traditional leaders highlights the need for proper authorization and transparency in land acquisitions. The outcome of the legal proceedings and appeals will determine the rightful ownership of the Bwanje Estate land, and the resolution of this issue will be crucial in ensuring justice and fairness in land management practices.